Why are Amazon Trucks making this weird, squeaky backup sound?

Our world has changed a lot in the last eighteen months. We spend more time working from home, and we order a lot of things from Amazon.

And Americans notice something they’ve probably never heard: tough, rigid shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh A sound from blue Amazon trucks as they back up their parcel-delivery entrances.

Described variously as sounds like “a raven or a raven,” “a flock of hawks attacking or some shit,” and “Tool’s Ænema song,” the noise has baffled small town America for the past year or so.

What happened to the good old fashioned beep beep sound?

Those of us in the UK are shrugging our shoulders and wondering why you fear so much. This is the sound that vehicles make when backing up. And that was around 1976, after British businessman Christopher Hanson Abbott heard a similarly strange sound on the streets of Tokyo.

Hanson Abbott, who was in the freight industry at the time, followed the sound and saw a truck pull back along the road. He said, “I thought, What a great idea” entrance.

Hanson Abbott, now 87 and his grandfather, is taking time off work to track down the inventor of the alien signal. “Finally I found him, with a small family business in the mountains in northern Japan, making ignition parts for these Japanese cars,” he recalls. The Japanese inventor agreed to terms with Hanson-Abbott to market the product in the UK and Europe.

The angry bird– Like the sound that trucks make, scientifically speaking, good For people who don’t want to have it to retreat.

“I went to Britain, and left the profession of shipping I had been in for 21 years to sell a product that no one had ever heard of outside Japan, and for which there was no demand, in an industry I did not know, and there was nothing I but saw it being tried in Japan “.

The adventure paid off. The first 50 alarms he put in his briefcase on his way back from Japan were sold out ‘overnight’ after he placed an ad in Exchange and Mart magazine. His company, Brigade Electronics Group, now has a global presence, including in the US (It’s not known if Amazon uses Brigade technology.)

entrance I reached out to Amazon to find out when their trucks started stooping instead of buzzing, but the retail giant ignored our requests for comment. It seems likely, however, that moving toward a different alarm comes down to safety—since the grumpy bird-like sound of trucks, scientifically speaking, is good for people who don’t want their support.

sound science

So what he is The science behind all this?

Let’s go back 130,000 years in time. Imagine you are a Neanderthal, walking across the plains. You hear a twig crack under the foot at close range.

“If I just stood there and went, ‘I wonder where that came from,'” explains Deborah Withington, Professor of Neurophysiology at the University of Leeds and founder of Sound Alert Technology. “…I have developed a broadband reverse siren system that is more easily heard. (This is broadband as in broadband, not the Internet.) It uses the same principles as Hanson-Abbott technology and emits a similar sound.

It is very difficult to determine the source of a twig snapping – just as it is to know the source of a single high-pitched beep. That may be why a 2009 report to Congress found 18,000 Americans injured and nearly 300 killed each year from cars crashing into pedestrians and cyclists.

“If you want to be more secure, you need broadband sound,” Withington says. “The beep beep Very tight. They are approximately individual frequencies, and it is not possible to determine this precisely.”

You go, ‘Oh, for the sake of for the faceI won’t bother answering that whistling Any more than that.’ And of course, it’s the only time it’s done vehicle coming towards you.”

This is the scientific part. Any noise we hear is directed from our ears to a part of the midbrain called the superior colliculus – just like any light or touch we need to respond to. The superior colliculus is designed to activate the body’s response to external stimuli.

The kind of creepy killer who taps your shoulder while turning on a flashlight? Your superior colliculus activity is off the charts. “It doesn’t respond to things that are there all the time,” Withington says. “It’s about new sensory experiences, because it’s about survival.”

The human ear and brain have been finely tuned to listen for and calculate noise at different frequencies. Speech, one of the main forms of communication, generally occurs between a range of about 500 to 3000 Hz. However, speech gives us little indication of the location by its frequency, in large part because you are usually in visual contact with someone you are speaking to.

Instead, our brain uses different methods to try to calculate the location from the sounds. For sounds of low frequency, approximately 1000 Hz and below, we use a method called interval timing difference. You can try it in action when you flick your fingers to the right of your head – you hear it in your right ear just before your left. For higher frequencies, your brain does not operate directionally, but instead relies on the difference in loudness in each ear to determine its source.

How many frequencies do we give our brain any positional information at all? Between 1000 and 3000 Hz. “Guess where buzzing sounds Fall?” says Withington. Also, though the file buzzing sounds Disturbing, the brain does something called habituation, realizing that it has heard the noise several hundred times before. “Go, ‘Oh, for a face, I won’t bother answering that anymore,'” Withington says. “And of course, it’s the only time the car’s going towards you.”

You don’t want to be clipped by one of these vehicles.400tmax / iStock Unreleased / Getty Images

In terms of safety, broadband alarms outperform older devices beep beep “The listener can instantly locate the sound,” Hanson Abbott says. This is because they cover a wide range of frequencies, all of which are audible by humans, rather than focusing on a single tone. “Tonal sound tends to bounce off any surface and give the listener clues of wrong direction,” he adds.

What Hanson-Abbott describes as a “huge broadband security feature,” may be why Amazon has adopted these frequency alarms. a ProPublica The investigation found that more than 60 incidents involving Amazon delivery drivers occurred between 2015 and 2019, resulting in 10 deaths.

And more keeps coming. On October 17, a motorcyclist was killed in Mikasa, Florida after colliding with a truck carrying Amazon packages. Just this week, another Las Vegas motorcyclist was killed after colliding with an Amazon truck.

There’s no way to know how many accidents Amazon trucks have caused in reverse, of course. But changing to this spare sound has a very real potential to save lives — even if it upsets the hell of some sleepy suburban homeowners.

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